My husband and I have been together for about twelve and a half years, married just over ten. Seven and a half out of those ten years have been on straight sea duty. He has been gone about half of ever year, if not more and finding time to focus on ourselves and our marriage has not always been easy. We also have two children that usually consume our time, energy, and money. Which of course is not a bad thing, but sometimes parents forget that they are in a relationship. Our weekends revolve around sports games, practices, and family outings. When my husband would say, “We should go out tonight, just the two of us!”, I would look at him and remind him how early we had to be up in the morning and how late we’d be getting home that day. We were both heart-broken and missing our time together as husband and wife. It was putting stress on our marriage.
So, how is it that we have had at least one, if not two date nights a week for the last few years? Well, we came up with a new plan. It’s called “Date Night”. I know the name is so original. We quickly realized that dates had nothing to do with going out. It was about our time together. On the weekends we would spend time as a family. At night, we changed our normal routine a bit. The kids love date nights because it means that Mom isn’t cooking a meat and veggie that they are expected to like and eat, but instead they get to make their own pizzas, have chicken strips, or something else quick, easy, and fun. The husband and I make an appetizer for ourselves while making the kids dinner. Ok, so I don’t make much. I’m the cook during the week; my husband loves to cook and does so on date nights. I sit in the kitchen and drink a glass of wine while watching him. It’s the best seat in the house!
The kids are having a great time eating their fun food and deciding how they want to spend their time before bed. They usually vote on a movie and take pillows and blankets into our extra bedroom and snuggle in. I gather a few snacks and drinks and they are feeling pretty special. In the kitchen my husband is now cooking a special dinner for just the two of us. It is usually things that our kids can’t stand, like stuffed mushrooms, beef medallions with onions in a white wine sauce, etc. The husband and I then get to sit down and enjoy the delicious meal and adult conversation. It’s wonderful. After dinner we find a place to relax and talk while having a favorite beverage of choice. For me it’s a glass of ice tea or wine. For my husband, it’s a new beer he chose from the World Market. We talk about everything. We go over our week, the kids, work, our plans, and the future and reflect on the past. There is never a stressful moment, only longing looks and laughter. As soon as the kids’ movie is over, we spend time with them reading or just talking and then its bed time for the kiddos. After the kids all tucked in and dreaming, the husband and I play cards, watch a movie, or sit outside under the stars talking. We buy a special dessert like our favorite ice cream or cookie and enjoy every bite.
By the next morning we are rejuvenated and more than happy to run from soccer field to soccer field. The best part is that it has brought us closer together, not just as a couple, but as a family. My husband and I are happy, which makes us happy parents. People notice our playfulness and flirtatious glances between one another. And it’s not just because we love each other. It’s because we actually “like” one another after all the deployments, stressful situations, and tests of our commitment to each other. We are still in love and “in like”!
Now that you know what I do, make it your own. If you are just staring out and don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, that’s ok. Renting movies can be very cheap, or you can find a friend to borrow one from. Looking into things like Red Box and Net Flix can save time and money. Making dinner together can be fun and a date in itself. If you have the money to spend and cooking isn’t your thing, order in. One of you can go pick up your favorite carry out. If your kids are small and need more attention, wait until you put them in bed before starting anything. Really, whether you do or don’t have children or money has nothing to do with this concept. It’s about setting aside time for you and your spouse so that your marriage can withstand the test of time and the military. If all you do is sit up in bed and talk, you will be taking a step in the right direction.
And for those women, who are reading this a little bitter because their husbands are deployed, don’t think that this doesn’t apply to you now. I still have date nights by myself. I know sounds a little strange, but I do everything as if my husband was here. I make something special for myself that I know my kids won’t like, I buy my favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, I have a glass of wine, the kids get to have their fun dinner and watch a movie and the only thing that changes is that I usually end up watching a chick flick. And after the kids are in bed, I take a long hot bath and write to my husband once I’m snuggled in bed. It keeps me sane and its one night a week I do something for myself. I hope this helps at least one couple navigate the military lifestyle and that they can find a new level of happiness.
Have questions, comments, or topic suggestions? E-mail Marie: firstname.lastname@example.org